History of the Elysée Palace, presidential residence

While François Hollande has just moved to Elysee Palace for five years, there were a large number of great people before him, tenants of this marvelous and mystical place, nicknamed the “castle” by journalists, this highly symbolic palace of the Republic, where everyone has left their mark. Let's find out about their history and take a look back at some of them who haven't had the most classic courses!

From creation to the aftermath of the Revolution

In the middle of a market gardening plain, our current Saint Honoré suburb, André Le Nôtre's nephew by marriage in 1718 sold the land he owned to Henri-Louis de la Tour d'Auvergne, Count of Evreux. He had a mansion built there in four years. This construction marked the development of the district, one of the most beautiful in Paris. It was a classic construction with an entrance vestibule located in the axis of the Cour d'Honneur and the Gardens, a central body with a Large Apartment called the Parade Apartment in the middle of which is the Grand Salon overlooking the garden and two wings with the Apartment des Bains on the right and the private apartments on the left. The whole exterior was framed by walls topped with balustrades.

Thirty years later, the Marquise de Pompadour, wanting to have a "Parisian pied à terre" bought this hotel, had some work carried out on the Parade Apartment, on the first floor as well as the garden where she introduced bowers and waterfalls. , before settling there until 1764, then bequeathing it to Louis XV. Le Bien Aimé intended it for extraordinary ambassadors as a place of residence, then turned it into a kind of art gallery in 1765. Temporarily serving as the Crown Furniture Guard, it was sold in 1773 to the financier Nicolas Beaujon who transformed it profoundly by extending it the Small Apartments, by modifying the Central Pavilion, the Parade Chamber transformed into a hemicycle, by dividing the Assembly Hall, by redeveloping the English garden with terraces, winding paths and creation of a small lake.

Louis XVI sold it to the Duchess of Bourbon, his cousin, who gave it the name of Hôtel de Bourbon from 1787. His room was in the current Napoleon III library. After the arrest of the Duchess in 1793, this mansion saw several uses: in 1794 it was used as a printing press for the Bulletin des Lois, then it was used as storage for the seizures of convicts or emigrants; after the release of the Duchess of Bourbon, she returned to her hotel in 1797 and rented the ground floor to the Hovyn family, where popular balls were held in 1797 (in order to earn some income). They carried out work to open two arcades to let the public pass to the gardens and gave the hotel the name of Elysee.

The palace was sold by the Duchess of Bourbon, the rented apartments saw the presence of the Count and Countess Léon de Vigny and their son Alfred ... To meet the debts, the Hovyn family sold the hotel in 1805.

The Elysee Palace from the Empire to the present day

Murat wants to restore all its luster to the hotel in Evreux and entrusts the work to Barthélémy Vignon (the one who will realize the Madeleine) with the creation of the Grand Escalier, Galerie des Tableaux which is the current Salon Murat, a Banquet Room in the he west wing, the Small Apartments wing is reserved for Caroline Murat, including the Salon d'Argent, the second floor reserved for children. Murat lived there until 1809 becoming King of Naples, then ceded it to Napoleon who renamed it the Elysée-Napoleon! He remained there until his Austrian campaign, handed over the palace to Josephine for divorce and took possession of the premises in 1812 ... until signing his abdication in the Silver Boudoir.

During the occupation of Paris by the allies, Tsar Alexander was resident, then in 1815 the Duke of Wellington; in 1816 the Duke of Berry inherited it from his uncle Louis XVIII; finally in 1820 Louis Philippe is owner of the places which will become the residence of the foreign guests of France until 1848. During the IIè Republic, the name becomes Elysée National and it is in December 1848 that this palace becomes Residence of the President of the Republic. Louis Napoleon then settled there; in 1853 Eugénie de Montijo was welcomed there and Napoleon III decided on the complete renovation of the palace, and thought of creating an underground passage to join Marie-Louise de Mercy-Argenteau, his “friend”.

The work, which gives us more or less the vision of today, was completed for the Universal Exhibition in 1867 and the Elysee received foreign rulers such as Tsar Alexander II or the Emperor of Austria Franz Joseph.

From the installation of Marshal Mac Mahon in 1874, the palace became the Official Residence of all the Presidents of the Republic, except during the period from June 1940 to 1946 when the palace was closed.

As the various presidents were installed, certain works were undertaken to meet everyone's tastes, but from the arrival of the Third Republic, the premises were modernized with the appearance of the telephone, electricity, central heating.

The little peculiarities of Presidents

General de Gaulle fan of bouillabaisse, would have done everything to taste one. But he refused to receive the writer Paul Morand before his admission to the Académie Française and sent him a letter of "exemption from visit". Very tall, the General could only spend one night during his vacation at Fort de Brégançon, the presidential secondary residence: the bed was too small and the mosquitoes too numerous!

When he was established at the Elysée Palace, Georges Pompidou called on contemporary designers to redecorate the premises and asked to install a cinema room in the basement. It was he who introduced refined menus with the appearance of foie gras and yet he loved the leg of lamb.

Valéry Giscard’Estaing introduced new French cuisine to the 48 state meals under his presidency. One of these meals in February 1980 was quite compromised: indeed his guest Helmut Schmidt, before going to the table, was in bad shape and suddenly collapsed, as Valéry Giscard d'Estaing recounts in his Memoirs "his head rolls sideways, his eyes capsize upwards. He must have passed out. We are both alone in the room, the doors are closed. The only sign of life is a slight wheezing of the breath. What would public opinion, the crowd think, if they found us like this, Helmut on the sofa, and me motionless and useless, watching over him without being able to help him? " Finally, the president appealed to the palace doctor, who will put the chancellor back on his feet. But as we know, he had to leave the Elysee Palace in May 1981. Except that in 2003 in order to finalize his accession to the Académie Française, there is a “compulsory passage” at the President of the Republic what Valéry Giscard d ' Estaing categorically refused. However, he resolved to do so ... by entering the palace through a garden gate. His presidency was from time to time disturbed by fanatics who wanted to enter the premises, as during the night of November 7 to 8, 1974 when the individual having climbed the garden gate, entered the palace to go to sleep. in the Salon d'Argent!

François Mitterrand, barely installed in June 1981, a journalist recently hired at the Elysee Palace, hit the headlines. Having to write a "delicate" note, this one absorbs a stimulating substance, a powder to be reduced to the finest ... a very flat and regular surface was needed for the preparation ... he then takes down the portrait of the President and prepares this substance on the presidential smile! It was also under his presidency that the "black cabinet of Louis XV" resurfaced. Indeed, between 1983 and 1986, 3,000 telephone conversations were recorded involving 150 people ranging from actress Carole Bouquet to the wife of Prime Minister Laurent Fabius ... in order to avoid an extreme right-wing plot. In François Mitterrand's time, the various intrusions happened differently than in VGE's time. On November 13, 1982, a young political science student jumps over the palace gate (still 4.50 meters high) ... but immediately stopped by the gendarmes, he apologized by saying "I had a stroke. madness ”! The President will have to deal with another problem: the suicide of one of his former companions in April 1994. It is the first time that such a tragedy has occurred at the Elysee Palace!

Jacques Chirac was very surprised on the day of his investiture: he did not recognize the office, although he regularly came to meet there with the head of state. François Mitterrand then had these kind words "I wanted to leave you the office in the state in which General de Gaulle left it"! Among the surprises of all kinds, there is that of his wife Bernadette who loved the palace and had the chapel restored ... which was to serve as a waiting room for the next tenant!

The Elysée in a few figures

To serve a single President, it takes around 1000 people, from the post office to the kitchen, including drivers, electricians, florists, all Made in France. Among them, just 100 individuals deal with the mail received: the General received 210,000 letters during the week of the barricades in Algiers; in May 1794, 250,000 letters were sent to Giscard d´Estaing after his election; since 1981 the annual number of letters has continued to increase. From 600,000 in 1981, it rose to 860,000 in 1991; Jacques Chirac, for his part, received more than 1,000,000 messages a year and a petition with 6,200,000 signatures after the announcement of the resumption of nuclear tests in 1995.

State dinners are a staple tradition. To properly receive foreign heads of state, therefore, around 6,500 pieces of crockery, 6,000 glasses and crystal decanters for the 2,000 very fine vintages consumed annually, 90 embroidered tablecloths, the menus are prepared in a 600 square meters, with 21 people on the job.

In terms of decoration, there are 320 clocks that a master watchmaker winds up every Tuesday morning and the most beautiful piece of the Elysée: a Louis XV desk by cabinetmaker Charles Cressent, used by all the presidents of the Fifth Republic, except Valéry Giscard d'Estaing.

The Garden party is a must at the Elysée, the party to be invited to on July 14. In 2006, 4,000 people from various backgrounds (media, letters, shows, politics) were invited at the end of Jacques Chirac's mandate ... at a cost of 480,000 euros paid to the palace caterers!

This palace since its creation in the 18th century, has perhaps seen the greatest number of tenants. In addition to the princes, the favorites, it housed two emperors and 23 presidents of the Republic including one who expired in the arms of his mistress and another extravagant who went mad during his mandate, one in two presidents not completing his mandate!

For further

- The Élysée, behind the scenes and secrets of a palace, by Patrice Duhamel and Jacques Santamaria. Plon, 2012.

- The Elysée: History of a palace, by Georges Poisson, Pygmalion, 2010.

Video: Presidential Palace. CC (September 2021).